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Answering Catholic Chris Matthews’ Abortion “Penalty Trap”

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Many well meaning pro-life politicians and spokespeople seem flummoxed in TV appearances with the bombastic Chris Matthews whenever he asks them what kinds of penalties they recommend should be imposed on people who commit the crime of abortion if it is declared to be a crime of murder.

After all, as Matthews proclaims, if someone really believes that life begins at conception, then abortion is indeed murder, so there should be penalties imposed on the murderers, like jail time, etc.

In response, the kinds of well-intentioned but largely inadequate answers that fall into Matthews’ trap vary along the following lines:

■“There are 2 victims of abortion – the mother and the child, so there is no need to punish the mother any further.”

■“It’s not about punishment. It’s about getting people to stop aborting their children.”

■“Such things will be worked out in the future.”

■“Doctors who participate in an abortion will have their licenses revoked, because they really know what abortion is, while some women are ignorant of what’s involved.”

All of the above and others like them contain some elements of truth, but they open up a door to Matthews’ follow-up criticism that he uses to make a strict anti-abortion position appear to be untenable. Matthews claims that if pro-life people are unwilling to recommend specific penalties beyond revoking medical licenses, then merely proclaiming abortion to be murder is virtually meaningless. In addition, Matthews suggests that pro-lifers do not set forth specific penalties like jail time for the mother because they “recognize” it is not possible to jail all of the women who would still commit the crime, and there is fear of a major backlash/protest that would cripple the pro-life movement, and also do irreparable political damage to the Republican party if typical penalties imposed for murder were recommended.

Does Matthews have a legitimate point? He rarely does in most of his inane commentary, but in this case, he has rightly pointed out how many pro-lifers run away from recommending any kinds of specific penalties that should be applied to those who willingly have abortions. In so doing, Matthews is able to triumphantly proclaim that pro-lifers are hypocrites in claiming that life begins at conception, because they are not willing to recommend appropriate penalties that should be imposed on those who commit what pro-lifers claim is murder.

So it’s time for all of us who are pro-life to step up and explain a legitimate development of penalties that will be enhanced over a short time period to properly punish the crime of abortion. Of course, because too many people have accepted abortion as a legitimate action, there is a need for such a development of penalties that should also be supplemented by an ongoing nation-wide education campaign to fully inform the people of the reality of abortion as a crime of murder.

Here is one possible approach to bringing about the desired result of treating abortion like the crime it is, once it is declared to be illegal:

1.For the first 3 years of the law in existence, classify abortion as a lesser degree of murder, like 3rd degree or some other appropriate designation.

2.Considered as a lesser degree but still murder, the punishment for women who voluntarily present themselves and their babies for abortion will consist of serving 3 months in a local jail or other designated establishment, plus pay a $10,000 fine or serving another 6 months in a local jail or designated establishment.

Repeat offenders will serve a minimum of 5 years in a county or state jail, or other designated establishment.

3.Medical personnel or others who perform or assist in an abortion will have their licenses revoked (if applicable), serve 3 months in a local jail or other designated establishment, plus pay a $25,000 fine (unlicensed medical personnel; others who assist will pay a $10,000 fine), or serve another 6 months in a local jail or designated establishment.

Repeat offenders will serve a minimum of 5 years in a county or state jail, or other designated establishment.

4.After 3 years of the law being in place and properly enforced, abortion is to be reclassified as second or first degree murder, and the current laws on punishment for second or first degree murder are to be applied to those who voluntarily submit themselves and their babies for an abortion, as well as to those medical personnel who perform or assist in an abortion.  Lesser penalties for the woman and medical assistants can also be implemented if it is deemed that the greater crime is committed by the provider of the abortion.

In sum, there is the pragmatic need for a transitional period in the imposition of penalties for the crime of abortion, but if we are truly serious about our position that abortion is indeed murder, we cannot shy away from making such penalty recommendations no matter how they will be received or criticized.

And to avoid falling into Matthew’s trap by offering weaker arguments regarding possible penalties for abortion, a defender of life can firmly state that one pragmatic approach consists of a short transitional period of penalties that include some local jail time and fines (N.B. The example set forth above is just a template of the kinds of things that can be done.  Lighter fines and lesser jail times, a longer transitional period, and so on might be a better way to go.) , a nation-wide education campaign to advise people of the reality of abortion as a crime of murder, and the eventual classifying of abortion as either first degree or second degree murder.

The truth and all things connected to the truth must always be vigorously defended without fear.

OVV

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